She was watching him, his movements, his concentration collecting in his smallest eyelashes, his knotted jaw, the redness in his knuckles.
“What are you doing?”
“Carving our initials into this bench.”
Slowly and methodically he dug his room key into the dark wood, gu
iding it against the grain and along
curved edges and straight lines.
She thought to ask him why, but she already knew. Instead she asked
He paused his work and gazed upon the building beside them. Carved stone arches balanced on layers of deep red brick and braced rooflines sloping into dappled oak shade. He smiled, just barely, and returned
to his work.
“This is a beautiful building, isn’t it? But I don’t know the name of its architect or its builders or the person who commissioned its creation. Almost no one does.”
He scooped away the last few splinters from her surname’s first letter and set down the key.
“Maybe, if someone looks closely enough, they might know our initials instead.”
When I was younger
I developed a habit of dragging my feet along the sidewalk
to hear the scratching sound it made
My mother told me
Stop, you’͛ll scuff your shoes
(So from then on, I punctuated the steps I took alongside her).
When I was younger
I watched the boys with dirt under their fingernails
catching lizards and severing their tails with sticks sharpened on the sidewalk
I watched them laughing at the disembodied tails
Wriggling there as if they were instead small snakes
The boys laughed because they knew
the tails would grow back
(Not gone but displaced)
And that moment, with the half-lizards and pointed sticks
(Not displaced but gone)
And I imagine now, as I split this page into words
the same lizards wearing their tails again,
tails that are nice and new and strong
(Unlike the shoes I hide from my mother,
which are far too scuffed now and must be thrown away).
I was prompted to reflect on this subject when I viewed more obvious and deliberate examples
of a human mark on the landscape while walking to class. They are ubiquitous but so often overlooked.
Graffiti, almost scrubbed off of sheet metal. Initials carved into a bench. M
arks everywhere, within and without significance.
Despite the diversity in the types of marks I’ve found, one thing unified them all – they were left behind. Our marks – our legacy – is an entity separate of ourselves. To what extent
my legacy will be a reflection of myself, I do not and will not know. But in this transitory stage of my life, I’ve realized that nothing can leave a mark without moving forward, on and away.
And in that thought, or perhaps beneath it, I believe there is solace
to be found.